Always an advocate for marginalized people, former lawyer Megan Turner has turned to social work to better live out her passion for social justice and helping those in need.
As a public defender in Denver, Megan Turner enjoyed working with her clients. But she didn’t like the 70-hour weeks and not being able to help her clients beyond their legal issues.
“There was chronic homelessness, there was unemployment or underemployment, there were mental health issues and addiction struggles,” she recalls. “I remarked to my colleagues that what these clients need is a therapist. They needed someone to talk to.”
That, Turner says, is what got her thinking about going back to school. Having graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2011, Turner returned to campus to work on her MSW in 2019.
“It was a big decision, a big commitment,” she says, “and it took me a while to get there, but ultimately it was the right step.”
Turner, who is on course to graduate in May 2021, is interning at the University of Illinois Counseling Center. Her internship was made financially easier when she was named the recipient of the John K. Gibson Scholarship in Social Work (MSW) award, given to a student who has demonstrated commitment to social justice, restorative justice, or civil rights, or who has worked with marginalized persons.
“It’s an enormous honor,” Turner says of the scholarship. “I was so privileged and surprised to be named the recipient—and it’s definitely been a help.”
At the Counseling Center, Turner co-facilitates a therapy group, employing an evidence-based, skills-based therapy called DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). Through DBT, clients can acquire skills to manage painful emotions and decrease conflict in relationships. The therapy focuses on building skills in four areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
“It’s something I learned about through my coursework and also read about on my own, because it’s very interesting to me,” says Turner, who also carries a caseload of individual clients at the Counseling Center. Her work at the center, she adds, has “been a wonderful experience thus far. I’ve really enjoyed working with students, and that will only grow as the year goes on.
“I can tell I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”